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No Safe Haven: Children of Substance-Abusing Parents

NCJ Number
Date Published
173 pages
This analysis of the relationship between drug abuse and child abuse and neglect explains how child welfare agencies and family court systems attempt to handle the issue of child custody when a parent is a drug or alcohol abuser and recommends substantial changes in practice to safeguard children.
Information came from an analysis of available data on child abuse and neglect; a national survey of 915 professionals in child welfare; a review of more than 800 professional articles, books, and reports; 6 case studies of innovations in the field; and interviews of judges, child welfare officials, and social workers. Results revealed that drug abuse and addiction severely compromise or destroy the ability of parents to provide a safe and nurturing home for a child and also confound the child welfare system's ability to protect children. Drug abuse causes or contributes to an estimated 7 of 10 cases of child maltreatment. Nevertheless, timely and comprehensive treatment can work for drug-abusing parents; such treatment is cost-effective. However, the shortage of appropriate drug treatment for women sabotages the efforts of child welfare officials and judges who try to intervene with drug-abusing parents. Findings also suggest that only a major overhaul of the child welfare system and dramatic changes in child welfare practice can make real progress against the problem. Recommended actions include: (1) starting with prevention; (2) dramatically reforming child welfare practice; (3) funding comprehensive treatment; (4) providing drug abuse training to all child welfare, court, social, and health service professionals; and (5) evaluating outcomes, increasing research, and improving data systems. Figures, footnotes, appended instrument and methodological information, and chapter reference lists